Justice Microgrid to power free legal support for rural Ugandans

A new solar microgrid in Bala, Uganda, provides power for a legal support centre, local government buildings and community spaces.
Justice Microgrid to power free legal support for rural Ugandans
Courtesy of Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF).

The “Justice Microgrid,” a 14.25-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system is a pilot project developed by a partnership between the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) and Barefoot Law, aiming to foster a more accessible and equitable justice ecosystem using clean, distributed energy.

Despite being connected to the national electric grid, Bala experiences frequent, often weeks-long power outages. This became a problem for BarefootLaw, a Uganda-based legal justice nonprofit. Their BarefootLaw Box (LawBox) - a community centre in which people can receive free legal support - was established in 2022. Its reliance on computers, internet, and video conferencing meant that when the power went out, services also ceased. 

BarefootLaw reached out to SELF for a solution. SELF developed a solar-powered microgrid for the LawBox and expanded the system to meet other legal and municipal needs. 

“You can have an incredible resource like the LawBox, but without reliable power, it doesn’t matter” said Robert Freling, SELF’s executive director. “Unreliable grids are all too common in these rural communities and it obstructs access to crucial services. It’s a major problem, but fortunately, it’s one we can solve.”

The microgrid provides power for lights, computers, internet, device charging, printing, and more. Staff can now serve more people with better resources, and keep their doors open through local blackouts. 

“It is very important to have constant power at the LawBox” added Midi Awor, a Bala resident who received legal help after her livestock were stolen. “Whenever I come, I can easily be connected to a lawyer in Kampala using a television.” 

The microgrid also provides power for the courts, town council, police station, and community development office. In addition, solar streetlighting has been installed to improve safety and extend the hours available for commerce and community gatherings. All of this aims to create a more collaborative, transparent, and inclusive justice process.

“People can now tell their stories” said Gerald Abila, founder of BarefootLaw. “Town officials are listening and have the resources to make change. There is support and collaboration. Change is possible, and Bala is the blueprint.”

For additional information:

Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF)

Barefoot Law

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